Here are the main events that occurred in Politics this week:
1. President Donald Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
On March 13, President Donald Trump announced that he has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed him, replacing his top diplomat ahead of a potential high-stakes meeting between the US President and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Tillerson’s departure follows months of tension between him and Trump. The resignation represents the biggest shakeup of the Trump Cabinet so far and had been expected since last October when reports surfaced about a falling out between Trump and Tillerson. President Trump publicly undercut Secretary Tillerson’s diplomatic initiatives numerous times since he came to office over a year ago. For example, President Trump criticized Tillerson’s positions on Iran, the European Union, NATO, and Russia. Most recently, Trump denounced Tillerson’s most recent comments on Russian aggression towards NATO member-states such the UK, France, and Germany. Secretary Tillerson also appeared to be out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sometime in May to discuss the countries nuclear program and work to defuse the tensions between both countries.
For Tillerson’s replacement, President Donald Trump named CIA Director Mike Pompeo and moved up Gina Haspel to the post of CIA director. In a Twitter post, Trump stated that “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” Despite the optimistic tone of President Trump regarding these changes, they point to an Executive Branch in continual flux and crisis.
2. US students Stage Walkouts Protesting Gun Violence & The Failure of the US Government to Enact Meaningful Gun Control Legislation
Nearly 10,000 students throughout the US and several other countries walked out of school to demand action on gun violence on March 14 in one of the biggest student protests since the Vietnam War era. Braving harsh weather conditions and threats of discipline in states as varied as New Jersey, Ohio, and Georgia, the students carried signs with messages such as “Am I next?,” denounced the NRA and their opposition to gun control, and expressed remembrance for the 17 people who were killed in the February 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
In addition to the walk-out protests, several protests were staged near the US Capitol building calling on the Trump Administration and Congress to pass strong gun control legislation. The largest group protesting was made up of several hundred students and family members of victims of school shootings. Senator Bernie Sanders (D/I-VT) addressed the crowd, saying that “We are very proud of what you are doing,” the former presidential candidate said. “You, the young people of this country, are leading the nation.” Additionally, Sanders commended the students for “leading the nation in the right direction” and opposing the National Rifle Association (NRA).
3. UK-Russian Diplomatic Row Grows
The ongoing diplomatic dispute between the UK and Russia regarding the poisoning of Russian dissident Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia grew in intensity this week. On March 16, UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson announced that the substance used to poison both Skripal and his daughter was a nerve agent produced in Russia and that the poisoning was ordered on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In response to these allegations, UK Prime Minister Theresa May ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK and broke off high-level diplomatic ties with Russia for the first time since 1927. Additionally, the UK government is considering invoking Article V of the NATO treaty, which expressly states that Collective an attack against one member-state is considered as an attack against all member-states. The governments of France, Germany, and the Czech Republic expresses solidarity with the UK and further pledge to step-up efforts to isolate Russia and bring about the removal of the Putin Regime from power.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov denounced the allegations, saying that Russia ceased its chemical weapons program in the early 1970s and that the allegations are another attempt to weaken the Russian state. Additionally, US President Donald Trump expressed skepticism regarding the charges by the UK, stating that it is uncertain that the Russian government ordered the attack.
4. House Republicans Break With Intelligence Community, Clearing President Trump of Wrongdoing in the 2016 Election
On March 12, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee reached an opposite conclusion from the intelligence community by announcing that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not trying to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. The Republicans also said they found no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and that they are shutting down their yearlong investigation. Trump seized on the news Monday evening, tweeting that “The House Intelligence Committee Has, After a 14-Moth Long Investigation, Found No Evidence of Collusion or Coordination Between the Trump Campaign and Russia” in order to sway the results of the 2016 Presidential Election.
Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX), stated that the committee had concluded its interviews for the Russia investigation, and the Republican staff had prepared a 150-page draft report that they would give to Democrats to review on Tuesday morning. The committee Republicans said Russians did meddle in the elections to sow chaos, but they disagreed with the intelligence community’s assessment that they sought to help Trump.
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, slammed the Republican decision to end the investigation. “While the majority members of our committee have indicated for some time that they have been under great pressure to end the investigation, it is nonetheless another tragic milestone for this Congress, and represents yet another capitulation to the executive branch,” Said Schiff. “By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House,” Schiff feels that “the Majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly.”